A Hauppauge computer equipment distributor who admitted bribing an official at a U.S. Department of Energy lab in exchange for nearly $1 million in federal contracts will avoid prison under a sentence handed down in federal court in Central Islip Monday.
Michael Montenes, 62, president of M.S. Hi-Tech, will instead serve 6 months of home detention and 2 years probation, U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert told him. Montenes, who prosecutors sought a sentence of 12 to 18 months for, admitted last May to making $18,800 in payments to a procurement officer working for a Virginia lab to secure contracts to supply the facility with computer equipment.
“While the government is not far off with a guideline sentence that amounts to [roughly] 10 months in prison, I can’t do it,” Seybert said to groans from former employees of Montenes who attended the proceeding. “I just feel that as angry as some of the victims are, and they're entitled to be angry, at the end of the day, what's the lesson we're giving the community? He probably does deserve the 1 year, but … it's a tad too much.”
Montenes forfeited $911,385, the value of the contracts, and has begun to pay the U.S. Department of Energy $1.8 million in restitution related to damages and repairs incurred when the electrical components he sold caused a fire at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Prosecutors previously said payments Montenes made to procurement officer Jami Anthony ranged between $500 and $7,200, and occurred between December 2017 and December 2020. Federal investigators became aware of the bribery scheme after the fire broke out at the lab in July 2021, prosecutors said.
Court records show that Anthony would text Montenes the lowest bid submitted by other companies so he could undercut them and be awarded certain contracts. She also occasionally instructed him to intentionally lose certain bids to avoid detection, the messages show.
Montenes pleaded guilty last May to a single count of bribery of a federal official. Anthony pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe and was sentenced by Seybert in November to 2 years probation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley King pleaded with Seybert to give Montenes prison time as a deterrent for other officials who might engage in similar conduct.
King said Montenes was motivated by “pure greed” when he and Anthony initiated their scheme.
“It’s clear what happened … it was greed,” King said. “If it wasn’t for the fire he would still be stealing and cheating.”
Defense attorney Anthony La Pinta of Hauppauge said Montenes “made a quick decision to take responsibility” soon after his arrest last year, entering a guilty plea at his arraignment. La Pinta described his client as a hardworking man who overcame hardships as a youngster to grow his business to “the pinnacle” of his chosen profession.
“Mr. Montenes has paid an incredibly steep price for his actions,” La Pinta told the judge, saying M.S. Hi-Tech is closing. “He's lost everything.”
Montenes was supported in the courtroom by his wife, friends and a therapist who spoke on his behalf at sentencing. He apologized to them and six employees he said he was forced to let go following his arrest.
“I’m a broken man,” Montenes told Seybert.
M.S. Hi-Tech was founded by Montenes in 1990, according to the company’s website. The business was honored in 2013 by the U.S. Small Business Administration as its subcontractor of the year after Montenes was nominated for the award by officials at Brookhaven National Laboratory, according to news reports at the time. Other clients included 3M, Fuji Electronics and Samsung, according to its website. It dealt primarily in electronic circuit components and memory chips.
La Pinta told Seybert that Montenes’ wife intends to start a smaller-scale business to support them, which her husband will advise her on, but not operate himself. Montenes is prohibited from securing government contracts as a convicted felon, La Pinta said.
“Your wife may be starting a new business, but you have to follow every single rule,” Seybert said. “If you come back to me … you're looking at substantial incarceration.”